Monday 11 November 2019

F1: Hamilton won't gain performance advantage at Mercedes, says Whitmarsh

F1 diver Lewis Hamilton
F1 diver Lewis Hamilton

Andrew Gwilym

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh does not think Lewis Hamilton's move to Mercedes is down to the Briton believing he will gain a major performance advantage when new engine regulations are introduced in 2014.

Hamilton's departure from McLaren at the end of the current season, following a 14-year working relationship, was confirmed last week with the Woking team moving quickly to secure Sauber's Sergio Perez as a replacement.

Hamilton's move has come as a surprise to many as he leaves a McLaren team who have won three of the last four races - Mercedes have won just once in three seasons.

While much has been made of the extra freedom over image rights understood to be included in his Mercedes contract, the desire of Hamilton's management company, XIX Entertainment, to market the 27-year-old as a global brand will simply fail if he is no longer winning races.

But with engines in Formula One set to be changed from the current 2.4 litre normally aspirated V8s to 1.6 litre turbo V6s the season after next, there is a window of opportunity for teams to get a major leap on their rivals.

This was achieved by Brawn during 2009, who reaped the rewards of the resources ploughed into the BGP-001 by Honda during a dismal 2008 to take the title with Jenson Button, as their rivals were slow off the mark interpreting widespread rule changes.

Ross Brawn, heavily involved in the genesis of that car, remained with the team when it became Mercedes in 2010 and it is understood they indicated to Hamilton they are confident of making a major step forward when the rule change arrives.

But McLaren are themselves powered by Mercedes engines and, as a result, Whitmarsh does not believe Hamilton will be expecting to have a major performance advantage in 2014.

He said: "Lewis knows that we are strong team if you measure us over the short, medium or long-term.

"We have got a long-standing partnership with Mercedes. If you look at our track record since we have had this relationship with Mercedes, in terms of race wins, podiums etc, we have been pretty successful.

"We enjoy great relationships with them both in Stuttgart, Brackley and Brixworth. I don't think that is material in this particular issue."

Hamilton now heads into the final six races of his McLaren career, starting with Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, 52 points adrift of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in the drivers' championship.

Despite Hamilton's retirement in Singapore with a gearbox problem, hopes remain high he can secure a second title as McLaren currently have the edge on rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.

And Whitmarsh insists McLaren will not be holding back on any new parts or upgrades they can provide the 2008 world champion, despite his impending departure.

"Lewis is a McLaren driver, he will be the recipient of the development items that we have for this year's car," said Whitmarsh.

"He will have every single development for instance in Japan and beyond, every race he'll expect things to his car and we'll be open with him on that and he'll understand it.

"In that regard, he will be involved in the development at the race circuit, although clearly he won't be involved in the development of next year's car."

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